Combination of compulsory helmets plus provided cycleways halve the head-injury rate, study finds

October 3, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—The combined effect of making helmets compulsory for riders and providing cycleways and other infrastructure has reduced by about half the serious head-injuries associated with cycling in NSW over the past two decades.

Cycling-related generally have risen in line with a rapid and sustained growth in bicycle use for recreation and commuting, but serious enough to require hospital admission are now declining at a rate of 4% a year, according to a major new study published in the journal .

The study, led by Dr Jake Olivier of the UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics, looked at trends in bicycle-related head injury in NSW from the enactment of mandatory in 1991 up to the most recent data in 2010.

It also looked at related hospital admissions for serious arm injuries, to help distinguish head-injury trends from broader bicycle accident rates. In the study period the number of serious arm injuries rose by 145% (from 660 to 1,620) while head injuries increased by only 20% (590 to 706).

"We found that the overall benefit of mandatory helmet legislation in lowering head injuries was larger than previously reported and has been maintained over the past two decades," says Dr Olivier. "Before the law commenced in 1991, bicycle-related head injury rates exceeded those of arm injuries. By 2006, head injuries were 46% lower than arm injuries.

"Significantly, we also found that bicycle-related head injuries have steadily declined even further since 2006, when serious spending on cycling began."

"This decline is happening despite the State's population rising by 22% during the study period and despite cycling participation rates rising by 51% in the past decade. Serious arm injuries have also declined since 2006, a benefit that is unlikely related to mandatory helmet legislation alone.

"So there's no room for doubt that hundreds of serious head injuries are now being avoided every year thanks to , bike lanes and segregated cycleways.

"Assuming head injury rates had increased at the same rate as arm injuries, 1,446 NSW cyclists would have been hospitalised in 2010 with serious head injuries without these interventions, whereas the actual number was only 706. In other words, compulsory helmets and cycling infrastructure prevented 740 serious head injuries in that year alone."

Professor Raphael Grzebieta, Chair of at the UNSW Transport and Road Safety Research (TARS) group - who, along with Scott Walter, is a co-author of the study - says the results show that calls for the removal of cycling infrastructure and the repeal of mandatory helmet legislation relating to cyclist safety are both unfounded.

"The Safe-System Approach adopted by all state and federal ministers in their national road safety strategy - involving multiple safety interventions - delivers significantly greater safety benefits than individual interventions alone. The study shows that cycling infrastructure doesn't simply get more people cycling, it makes it much safer for them to do so when combined with wearing a helmet."

Explore further: The impact of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries

Related Stories

The impact of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries

June 22, 2011
Bicycle-related head injuries fell significantly in the months after mandatory helmet legislation came into effect in NSW, and recent calls for a repeal of the laws should be rejected, new research based on hospital admissions ...

Australia: Helmets off to legislation

December 5, 2011
Cycling levels in Sydney could more than double if laws forcing cyclists to wear helmets were repealed, according to new research published today in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia.

Researchers say helmet laws effective

April 22, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- University of Alberta researchers have confirmed that helmet bylaws increase wearing rates among adults.

Any UK law on cycle helmets should apply only to kids

March 7, 2012
Any law to make the wearing of cycle helmets mandatory in the UK should apply only to children, because the evidence that cycle helmets significantly protect adults against serious head injury is equivocal, conclude researchers ...

Recommended for you

Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

November 22, 2017
Air pollution, particularly levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is associated with poorer quality sperm, suggests research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

Exercising and eating well are greater contributors to health than standing at work

November 21, 2017
By now you've probably heard the edict from the health community: Sitting is the new smoking. Perhaps you've converted to a standing desk, or maybe you have a reminder on your phone to get up once an hour and walk around ...

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.